Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 9 : 5 May 2009
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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Attitudinal Factor in Second Language Acquisition
An Illustrative Example from a Class in University

V. Kavitha, Ph.D. Candidate

There are many factors that hinder second language learning and acquisition. Among all the factors, the psychological factors greatly influence second language acquisition.

Action Research

I conducted a survey among 120 first year engineering students through questionnaire and personal interview at the beginning and at the end of the semester. One significant finding was that most of the students had negative attitude towards English and learning of English.

The major reasons for their attitude, according to them, were:

  1. I am from the Tamil medium class in my previous school.
  2. English is a difficult language to learn.
  3. I don't know grammar.
  4. It is too late for me to learn English.
  5. I did not have a good English teacher.
  6. Nobody encouraged me.
  7. I did not like the English language.
  8. Learning English is a threatening experience.
  9. No opportunity for the exposure to the use of English.

Follow Up

As a follow up of this survey, students were given both individual and group counseling, where the difference between a subject and a language was explained to them. And also we tried to make them realise that age was not the deciding factor in acquiring a language. Our goal was to remove their psychological inhibition and communicate to them the importance of acquiring English language for better career prospects.

Language activities were introduced in the class. These activities gave them good opportunity to practice English in the class. At the end of the semester, there was a notable change both in their written and oral performance. So many also stated that they improved their learning to impress upon their teacher!

Thus, there was a change in their attitudes, expressed through statements such as these:

  1. I am from the Tamil medium class in my previous school. But I can learn English.
  2. English is not a difficult language to learn. It is a beautiful language.
  3. I am learning grammar. It is not the only deciding factor to acquire oral English. I clarify my doubts with my teacher.
  4. It is not too late for me to learn.
  5. I have a good English teacher.
  6. My teacher encourages me.
  7. I like English. I feel confident about using it.
  8. It is not threatening.

Perceptible Changes

I noticed that the students' attitudinal change directly influenced their performance both oral and written. Once they are psychologically prepared to receive a language, acquisition became easy.

From this experience of mine, it is clear that the attitude of the learner directly influences the accomplishment of Second Language Acquisition. Thus, it is vital to study the attitudinal factor to enhance language learning.


Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary defines "attitude" as "a complex mental orientation involving beliefs and feelings and values and dispositions to act in certain ways", while Collins Cobuild Student's Dictionary explains: "Your attitude to something is the way you think and feel about it".

There is some difference between attitude and motivation. The latter can be internal or external. Even if it is internal, it is a conscious drive in attaining a goal, whereas attitude is a subconscious drive towards the destination.

Attitude in Language Learning

Researchers have identified attitude as a very important factor in second language learning. For example, Savignon (1976) says that attitude is the single most important factor in second language learning. Spolsky (1989:149) declares: "Of all school subjects, language learning is the one where attitude is specially relevant." We must recognize that most success stories begin with the acquisition and earnest practice of appropriate and positive attitude toward the task on hand. For too long, we have let our political desires, goals and propaganda come in the way of language learning. For any significant change in the mastery of a second language, teachers must acknowledge and respect students' attitudes, beliefs, and expectations and help them overcome any harmful perceptions and blocks.

Beliefs about language learning consist of "general assumptions that students hold about themselves as learners, about factors influencing language learning and about the nature of language learning and teaching" (Victori & Lockhart 1995:224)

Stern classifies attitudes into three types:

  1. Attitude towards the community and people who speak the L2
  2. Attitude towards learning the language concerned
  3. Attitude towards languages and language learning in general.

There are so many factors that affect the attitude of a student in second language acquisition. Attitude towards:

  • Institution
  • Teacher
  • Course materials
  • Methodology

And also general attitude, preconceived attitude, attitude transferred from friends and seniors should be included in the list. We become the way we think.

Attitude as a Behaviour

In most homes in India, mothers try to control their mischievous children by telling them about the immediate presence of the devil, owl, cat, witch or a policeman. As the child grows, she understands the reality. But the fear created within her is not wholly deleted. Though there is not much fear about these persons/objects as the child grows, the child develops an aversion towards these persons/objects. The child may continue to feel that cats are harmful. Slowly the child may overcome such impressions through real life situations. The same thing may happen to second language learners. If they do not change their misconceptions, it becomes very difficult for them to learn English.

Two Important Phases

In the Indian context, there are two important attitudinal changes a student should undergo:

  • Realisation of the importance of English
  • Eradicating the Prejudice against the language

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

Effect of Temporal Variations on Phoneme Identification Skills in Children and Adults - Comparative Study | Indianness in R. K. Narayan's Novel - The Man-Eater of Malgudi | English Vocabulary Learning Strategies Manipulated by the Students of Azad University, District 5: A Gender-oriented Study | The Impact and Relevance of Hedda Gabler in Modern Days | Search for Identity and Self in Indian Poetry in English by Women Writers | Teaching English in Minority Institutions | The Sociolinguistics and Cultural Considerations of English-Arabic Translation of Political News | Attitudinal Factor in Second Language Acquisition - An Illustrative Example from a Class in University | A Study on Emotional Skills and Adjustment towards First and Second Language Learning and Academic Achievement | Nonverbal Communication in Tamil Novels - A Book in Tamil | The Effect of Proficiency on Multilingualism, Error Finding, Social Class and Attitude in Multilingual Pre-University Mysore Students | A Review of Muzafar Desmond Tate's The Malaysian Indians: History, Problems and Future | HOME PAGE of May 2009 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

V. Kavitha, Ph.D. Candidate
VIT University
Tamilnadu, India

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